Formula One Joins Legoland in Plan to Remake Malaysia’s South

Some high-profile projects, including the Legoland Malaysia amusement park and Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios — a franchise of the U.K.-based company where James Bond films were made — are done or nearing completion in a flagship development zone called Nusajaya.

By Yoolim Lee and Chong Pooi Koon, Bloomberg

Robert Pick, the former deputy head of the U.K.’s Marlborough College, recalls the day in 2009 when he stood atop a hill at the southern tip of Malaysia and scanned an endless sea of green palm oil trees. He strained to see the spot among the massive plantations where the private boarding school would build its first overseas branch three years later, Bloomberg Markets magazine will report in its September issue.

“It was a leap of faith,” says Pick, who’s now the founding master of Marlborough College Malaysia, in his new office with a floor-to-ceiling window and a view of vast cricket and rugby fields. “You wouldn’t have believed then what it is now.”

Today, the 90-acre campus boasts more than 30 low-rise buildings divided by green lawns and tennis courts and is traversed by 376 students.

The college is a flagship project in Iskandar Malaysia, an economic development zone spanning 2,217 square kilometers (856 square miles) — three times the size of neighboring Singapore to the south — in the mostly rural state of Johor.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has ambitious plans for the area, which offers investors 10-year corporate tax exemptions, cheap land and low-cost labor. Najib, 60, has pledged to attract 75.5 billion ringgit ($23.4 billion) in investments to Iskandar from 2011 to 2015 on top of the 69.5 billion ringgit the zone pulled in from 2006 to 2010.